For the western world, it is an exotic fruit, encountered usually grated and sold in plastic bags or whole in the exotic section of better fruit and vegetable shops. Consumers wonder what to do with the whole, very hard nut or how to open it.
In America, the grated white meat is sweetened usually with glucose and hence is moister. In Europe, grated coconut is grated finer and is sold desiccated and unsweetened. We in the west commonly use it for baking, desserts and beverages.
In all tropical regions, the coconut is a plant without any practical waste. The natural milk ferments within hours, producing a kind of wine, or distilled, the liquor Arrak. The meat and milk is used in cooking as well as for sweets.
The root has a narcotic effect when chewed, the core and central part is edible and the terminal buds are considered a delicacy. Woven objects are made from the fronds and rope from the fibre of the bark and trees. Walls and floor coverings are still common today, something I recall from a trip to Indonesia and Bali. The list is long.
But by far, the most astounding information I discovered was its use as a plasma replacement.
It was the desperation of World War II and the acute need for plasma that lead to the discovery that the liquid inside young coconuts can be used as a substitute for blood plasma.
The Indonesian Navy still uses the precious liquid, harvesting from nearby islands when needed. The young coconut juice is sterile and contains the minerals and glucose necessary for intravenous purposes.
Coconut Milk – Here is something I learned from Indian cooking and indispensable in some dishes, besides tasting just wonderful. A delicate chicken broth with a little lemon juice and coconut milk, or used in desserts such as mousse – however you use it your dish will have a delectable hint of coconut finesse!
How: A quick method uses 100 g. of grated coconut to 400 ml. hot water. Place both in a sauce pan, stir well and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Use a deep bowl, a large fine sieve and a double layer of cheesecloth. Strain the coconut, using the back of a wooden spoon to press as much as possible out. Then when cool enough to handle, squeeze the cheesecloth for the last precious drops. Another method is to chop fresh coconut in pieces and use the blender with the very hot water to make a fine puree. Blend for several minutes.
Tip: The less water used, the thicker and more cream-like it will be. The whole process can be repeated, however the second blending will be less aromatic and weaker. Do not mix with the first pressing, but use as a liquid for a drink for simmering chicken, vegetables or for cooking rice. Discard finished puree.
In all tropical regions, the coconut is a plant without any practical waste.
The young coconut juice is sterile and contains the minerals and glucose necessary for intravenous purposes.